TVD Live: Blackberry Smoke and The Temperance Movement at Webster Hall, 3/28

In the year 2015, it sometimes seems difficult to locate real and true rock and roll that’s new and isn’t just a regurgitation of rock and roll from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. This difficulty can be accounted for by any number of elements—auto tuning, the decreasing influence of record companies in the world of musical artistry, and MTV.

A while back Portlandia put forth a brilliant take on what had happened to MTV by placing a pre-teen girl in its leadership position as explanation of its ideological demise. The difficulty in question is just that however, a difficulty—not an impossibility. This past Saturday night at Webster Hall in New York City serves as exhibits A through infinity to attest to this latter fact.

Blackberry Smoke, having released four studio albums since its start in 2000, is most often described as a “southern rock” band, which it is—but this categorization seeks to minimize the band when it should be maximized and subsequently lauded. Blackberry Smoke is a straight-up rock and roll group. The band’s sound is derived from lead singer and guitarist’s Charlie Starr’s spot-on command of each song performed, along with support from fellow guitarist Paul Jackson, bassist Richard Turner, keyboard player Brandon Still, and drummer Brit Turner.

Holding All the Roses is the group’s latest release, and a number of tracks were showcased at the Webster Hall gig, including “Let Me Help You (Find the Door),” “Rock and Roll Again,” and “Living in the Song.” A terrifyingly gorgeous rendition of the group’s emotionally melodic work-of-art-track, “The Whippoorwill” would have stolen the show—if surprise guest Robert Randolph hadn’t stepped out to contribute to “Ain’t Got the Blues.”

It must be addressed how top-notch the band-ness of the band is—the ways in which the players work together, seamlessly and selflessly soar over one another in their given melodic lines, riffs, and harmonies, and are astoundingly stellar and inspirational to professional musicians and talentless fans alike. Charlie Starr is a natural frontman—his ease, his undeniable charisma that exudes from his bellbottom jeans and incredible musicianship is something to be valued and appreciated, something to bask in.

Starr is real—he does not pose, he wouldn’t know how to. Keyboard player Brandon Still serves as an ideal accent to each song’s sound, never overtaking but elegantly complementing every tune—his soulful playing seems to channel that of the great Nicky Hopkins at times. As part of the encore, Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots” was covered—a well-chosen homage to the rock and roll legacy that the band seems determined to carry forward.

Of special note too was the concert’s opening act and recent touring partner, British group-to-keep-a-definite-eye-on, The Temperance Movement. The band’s aural agenda seems to be a cooler (because they’re British?) take on The Black Keys’ rough rock, Zeppelin sound.

As Blackberry Smoke’s frontman Starr exudes charisma, coolness, and a magnificent hold on the musical material at hand, the Temperance Movement’s frontman Phil Campbell exudes these same necessary qualities, but in a more urgent, revved-up fashion. Concluding their set with rock-catchy “Take it Back,” the TM made it clear that they are a force of the future to be reckoned with. NYC-area concertgoers are encouraged to check out the group’s upcoming solo show at the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, April 14th to hear what else these intriguing guys can do.

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